PHD NZ on the promise & pitfalls of machine learning in advertising

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Machine learning* is revolutionising advertising, Quantcast global ceo Konrad Feldman told PHD clients at a lunch in Auckland this week.

However, businesses need to make sure that machine-based optimisation drives growth, and not efficiency at the expense of diminishing revenue, he said.

Feldman said machines are goal-oriented and want to be rewarded.  Left unchecked, they will put performance ahead of profit.

“If we measured advertising campaigns on actual incremental outcomes, we wouldn’t worry about fraud because bots don’t buy anything,” he said. “But we’re not measuring on incremental outcomes, we’re working on a proxy – clicks or last touch attribution – and that proxy is easy to gain.”

People & machines
PHD NZ group general manager digital Christophe Spencer said big data is a valuable tool, but it needs expert navigation. “Machine learning presents a huge opportunity, giving us the resource to process, analyse and interpret the vast amounts of rich advertising and consumer data at our disposal.

“This in turn helps us deliver more targeted, informed and relevant messages to consumers.

“However our fundamental belief is that people must play a central role alongside machines, providing context and delivering a deeper understanding and the insight in the data. Our decision to bolster our team with the addition of specialist data analysts reflects this approach.”

Konrad Feldman co-founded Quantcast in California in 2006 to transform the effectiveness of online advertising through science and scalable computing.

Driven by increased computing capacity and the huge amount of data companies can now collect, he expects machine learning to continue to strongly influence advertising decisions.

“The ability to understand and interpret data is something that’s always been around, but we’re doing it at new scale,” said Feldman. “If we’re going to have increasingly used computer systems that are goal driven, how can we set them up for success?”

About PHD
PHD is known globally as an innovator in communications planning and buying across broadcast, print, digital, mobile, social and emerging media.  The network is #3 in the Gunn Report’s most awarded networks in the world.

PHD has 4000 staff working in 80 offices worldwide, having been founded in London in 1990 as the first planning-led media agency.

  • * Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides computers with the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning focuses on the development of computer programs that can change when exposed to new data. The process of machine learning is similar to that of data mining.
  • The PHD network is part of the Omnicom Media Group (, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC)

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